Indians 3, Angels 2
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)
Long after most people stopped paying much attention, the last-place Cleveland Indians' pitching staff has become surprisingly solid.
Shin-Soo Choo drove home Michael Brantley with a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning, and the Indians rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night with another stellar night on the mound.
Although Choo delivered the clutch hit, Cleveland manager Manny Acta knew his pitchers deserved credit for another low-scoring victory. After Carlos Carrasco provided six strong innings in his seventh major league start, Acta used three effective relievers before getting to closer Chris Perez, who needed just 11 pitches to finish off the punchless Angels.
''It's been very encouraging the way our starters have thrown the ball over the last few weeks,'' Acta said. ''And I don't want to be too confident, but right now, the way (Perez) is throwing the ball, it looks like he's not going to get hit.''
Cleveland's starters have a 3.20 ERA over the last 12 games, allowing three runs or fewer in all but one start. Every starter in the past 14 games has gone at least five innings, a remarkable development for a club that struggled to find consistency while sliding into last place.
Although Carrasco again fell short of his first career win, the longtime Philadelphia farmhand looked good while giving up six hits and striking out six. Carrasco, acquired in last year's trade of Cliff Lee to the Phillies, is making a compelling case for a rotation spot in 2011.
''We've got a very good rotation, a very good team,'' Carrasco said. ''The rotation is good, the bullpen is good, everything.''
Jensen Lewis (4-2) earned the victory with three pitches, striking out Mike Napoli with a runner on base in the eighth. Perez pitched the ninth for his 19th save in 23 chances, keeping the opposition scoreless for the 26th time in his last 27 appearances.
''Hopefully, I can get up to 20 (saves),'' Perez said. ''That's my goal, I guess. ... It's been a pretty good month or so. It all starts with starting pitching, and we've had consistent outings for the last couple of weeks. That's huge for us. It's a lot easier to mix and match our bullpen when the starters go six and seven innings, instead of five or four.''
Brantley's two-out double off Angels closer Fernando Rodney started the final surge for the Indians, who have won three of five on a West Coast road trip. After Rodney (4-2) hit Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch, Choo extended his productive trip with the go-ahead hit.
Torii Hunter hit a tying homer in the sixth inning for the Angels, who opened the three-game series with their 10th loss in 14 games despite another strong start from frustrated right-hander Dan Haren.
''Danny pitched well,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''Unfortunately, when you're not scoring runs, any time a guy is a little bit off and not quite getting the ball in the location you want it, you're going to pay a price for it. ... He really pitched well, but we just didn't support him.''
Napoli hit two doubles for the Angels, who are essentially out of the race for their sixth AL West title in seven seasons. Los Angeles has rarely played meaningless September baseball in the past several years, but the Angels are 19-28 since hosting the All-Star game, managing just 21 runs in their last 10 games.
Carrasco was every bit as good as Haren, who gave up five hits over seven innings. Haren, who walked four and struck out six, has won just two of his nine starts since Los Angeles acquired him from Arizona.
''I don't feel good about it,'' Haren said. ''Wins have been a struggle for me this year. I've been throwing the ball better here than I was with Arizona, but the team wins haven't been there, so I'm just as frustrated as anybody. I've just got to find a way to win a game.''
Haren didn't allow a hit until the fourth, when Travis Hafner scored on Shelley Duncan's sacrifice fly. Carrasco retired nine straight early on, but Los Angeles' Peter Bourjos drove a triple down the left-field line and scored in the fifth. Haren then lost his control in the sixth, walking three straight with two outs to force in Cleveland's second run.
Hunter's shot to right field was his 20th homer of the season.
NOTES: After the game, the Angels released RHP Brian Stokes. They plan to recall INFs Kevin Frandsen and Mark Trumbo on Tuesday while adding five players in September call-ups. ... Hunter has hit 20 homers in nine of the last 10 seasons. ... Perez has allowed a run in just seven of his 57 appearances this season.